University rankings and the scientification of social sciences and humanities

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The aim of this article is to render global university rankings (GURs) as a paradigmatic instance of knowledge/power (Foucault) within our post-industrial 'knowledge societies'. At the same time, I examine a possible connection between GURs and 'scientification' of social sciences and humanities (SSH), i.e. promotion of the belief that if SSH are to count as 'sciences' proper, they must subscribe to the epistemological and methodological tenets of positivist-empiricist natural sciences. Based on recent literature and on the methodological information that is provided by the compilers of GURs on the relevant websites, the second part of the article traces some structural features (such as underestimation of teaching and systematic biases of bibliometrics) which might be taken as supporting the hypothesis that GURs are connected with the the wider trend of scientification of social sciences and humanities. I conclude that, even if we could ever overcome the deficiencies of existing rankings, we should take seriously that there can be no ranking system that would be epistemically objective, value neutral, and politically incontestable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-192
Number of pages16
JournalEthics in Science and Environmental Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Critical theory
  • Discourse
  • Knowledge
  • Power
  • Ratings


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